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TX: 25.06.07 - Mental Health and Football

PRESENTER: WINIFRED ROBINSON
THE ATTACHED TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT. BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF MISHEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS COMPLETE ACCURACY.


ROBINSON
Research suggests that exercise can be as good as medication for some types of depression and a football league, set up for people who have mental illness, was among the winners of the Medical Futures Innovation Awards this year. The Positive Mental Attitude Football League has just completed its second season in the London area and what began as a recreation project has become an important part of the move between hospital and home for some patients. Mani Djazmi went to meet the league champions - Hackney FC - and spoke to the coach and to one of the players.

SMITH
I was sitting in my living room, looking out my living room window, and almost like watching the world go by, wishing I could be a part of it. It was very lonely. With bi-polar you go through a short space of time where you're hitting the ceiling, or you're high, I had psychosis, where I was delusional and recovering from that was heavy depression, you go through heavy depression and it could last for a year where I would be sleeping for long periods, not doing much, not going out, being a recluse almost. I was lucky to have a twin brother who has the same diagnosis as myself and we sort of shared our issues and problems with mental health regarding bi-polar together. It was difficult at times when I was well and he weren't well or I weren't well and he was well, we'd drag each other down. But now that we've been attending - partaking of other activities and other groups we've managed to stay well for five years.

DJAZMI
The PMA league was founded by occupational therapist and former Fulham player Jeanette Hines, she's also Hackney's coach.

HINES
People who are in acute wards are still in hospital and you've got people who've been living in the community and been out of hospital for a few years, you might have a few who've just been leaving hospital and just gone back into the community, so there's so many levels and that's why like I say you've got to be vigilant as a coach and as a health professional. These lads are walking round, they're hearing voices in their head as a player, they don't pass the ball they were going [indistinct words] but you know you've just got to try and combat that. And it's combating things in life because they're dealing with real life situations here and hopefully that will go on to what they do learn in the home say if things happen, that they don't go away and sulk and sit in a room and lock themselves away, they address it because they have to address it because they're playing football on the pitch.

DJAZMI
Initially the project's aims were no more ambitious than to give bored mental health patients something fun to do. Now the PMA league boasts four team teams from six mental health trusts around London and Peter Smith says that it's role has become far more significant, filling in a gap in community care provision.

SMITH
If you're at home on your own, like I was, and you never had a support network, you can build a support network around the team, the team are people who have the same issues and problems that you have. We go out and do things together, we go to each other's houses and we're at the end of a telephone, we can phone and talk to each other at any time night or day. The services - it's 9.00-5.00 and other than that that's it, you're stuck. But with the team they're always there.

DJAZMI
So it really makes a difference does it?

SMITH
It does, it makes a hell of a lot of a difference. In the time that we've been going for about four years we've only had two relapses within the team and when I say relapses - someone's been unwell before, they've got better, they've got unwell again.

DJAZMI
But this is just out of lots of healthy exercise, I mean why you can't play in a typical Sunday league team?

SMITH
It's not really about just exercising, it's about having a family almost. Many of us are taking medication and the medications have side effects, so you can't run for 90 minutes like everybody else could because they're not taking them - sort of high dose medication. So we've got to take that into consideration. So it's a level playing field really. Everyone playing here today has a mental health condition, many of them are taking medication, so we're all on a level playing field. If we went to the Sunday league it wouldn't be level.

WALLACE
It's really extraordinary that we're relying on schemes like this and there are very few of them to provide what is absolutely essential to the recovery of a person who's had a severe mental breakdown.

DJAZMI
Marjorie Wallace is founder and chief executive of the mental health charity SANE, she says that making sure that patients take their medication after leaving hospital simply isn't enough.

WALLACE
I really strongly believe that boredom is the greatest enemy to peace of mind to a mentally healthy mind and really what they need is not a huge amount of medical input, what they need is a kind of activity like this, it could be football or it could be art, it could be drama, it could be anything where they were getting some sense of their own worth and some feedback of people who really care about them and are noticing when their symptoms are becoming so painful to them and when they're going to need extra care.

HINES
I've got a lad who comes - he's in hospital, he comes down, to monitor him, to see how well he's got before he gets discharged you've got to do certain things like can he get on and off the bus, does he know directions. Well if he hadn't have come down to football he wouldn't - he doesn't join anything else in the ward, he comes down to football, he knows now how to get the bus, he knows what number to get, so things like that you can see the development, do you know what I mean, and now they know what type of hostel is best for this lad. He wouldn't communicate, he's shouting on the pitch, he's talking to people, he's making decisions which he doesn't do in other things within the ward system. It's a fantastic way of therapy for them.

SMITH
Where you have a key worker, a social worker, you build up a little relationship with them and then they move on, they go to another job or they go to another position so you're always chopping and changing. The same psychiatrist, it's the same thing, you have a psychiatrist, you discuss certain things but really it's about them assessing the risk for you - are you a risk to society, are you a risk to yourself - but not really looking at focusing on recovery, how can we make this person recover, what can we give them, what can we help them with to achieve their goals.

DJAZMI
In response to the criticisms of Jeanette Hines, Peter Smith and Marjorie Wallace the Department of Health has sent us this statement:

STATEMENT
Mental health services are a key priority for the Department of Health, we have increased investment in mental health services by more than £1.9 billion and have set up over 700 new mental health teams in the community offering home treatment, early intervention or intensive support to those who need them.

So successful is the PMA league that Jeanette's been appointed its full time coordinator by her local health trust and has already set up an equivalent competition in Manchester. After two years of badgering she's also secured funding and sustained interest from the Football Foundation - a charity which seeks to strengthen the links between football and the community with grants for different projects. And it's this kind of recognition which Peter Smith says is crucial if the stigma and ignorance attached to mental health is to be overcome.

SMITH
Our profile is getting big, in terms of not us as the players but what mental health is about and what people with mental health can do, it's not about being a risk to society where we're looked at as murderers and killers and psychotic thugs or something because in the social ladder we're at the bottom, we're lower than criminals with mental health. We're looked at as lower than criminals which is not right, we're human beings, we've got families, we've got lives.

ROBINSON
Peter Smith of Hackney FC on the healing powers of sport.

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